George Kramer Asks Council to Take City Hall Bond Off the May Ballot
FROM THE DESK OF
Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of the Council:
February 28, 2020
I am unable to attend your March 3 business meeting due to a prior commitment. Please consider this testimony related the proposed revision the GO Bond related to City Hall, Pioneer Hall and the Community Center.
First, I applaud the recognition that the City’s proposal to consider replacement of city hall on a par with its potential rehabilitation and restoration was ill-fated and unlikely to secure approval. This is the proper course and, I will remind you, the one that your Ad Hoc Committee recommended over two years ago. That the city has finally acknowledged the value of preservation and retention of this historic structure is a step in the right direction.
That said, I would encourage you to simply drop this proposal from the May ballot. The false sense of urgency you have attempted to create around this issue, claiming staff must move out or that there is increased liability, ist at best a convenient trope and will carry little weight with the voting public. I do not believe, should the bond fail, that you will actually relocate staff and hope that you agree doing so is a waste of money and time.
The City’s lack of appreciation for the legal issues attending to the proposed demolition of a historic structure gives me little confidence that the $7.2 million request for funding in the current plan is accurate and I think the public will rightly balk at supporting the request for just that reason. The Mayor’s own proposal implies that there are either elements of the current plan that could be cut for budget, or that there is some other source of funding to backfill any shortage.
I continue to believe that you have failed to adequately and honestly assess options for the City Hall project, especially as it concerns rehabilitation. I am entirely confident that were a restoration-skilled architect asked to evaluate the building with the goal of reuse in mind that the City could save significant investment while upgrading and improving city hall for the next 100 years. We should know, realistically, what that number might be before being asked to fund it. The City’s “we’ll only levy what we need” statement lacks conviction.
I encourage you to remove this request from the May ballot entirely. Take action on some combination of Councilor Slattery’s suggestion to restore either of the Winburn Way Community Center or the Pioneer Log Cabin using other funding sources, including the $450K currently dedicated to construction drawings for City Hall. Get at least one of those projects underway now. Doing so will not only return that needed building to utility to benefit the public, it will reduce construction disruption down the road by having just two of the three projects under way concurrently. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it will save the city the cost of leased space and provide city staff with a location to move during the eventual city hall work.
In the interim, before a November GO bond request, you can reconsider the now clear direction of rehabilitation and restoration of City Hall, developing a plan and a solid financial number for that work. Then, when you go before the voters for funding, we will know exactly what is to be done and have the details that any investor would demand. The current proposal lacks that.
Going forward with an improved, but still somewhat half-baked, needlessly rushed, bond request is unlikely to move this project forward. I expect this bond will fail and you have nothing to show for it other than reduced public trust. I urge you not to waste time and effort doing so. Instead take the above steps to build confidence in the eventual plan you present to the citizens.